Nortal Spotlight: Justin Graham

by Nortal Cloud team, November 30, 2020

Justin Graham is up for our November spotlight! He has grown immensely throughout his career at Nortal and has recently been promoted to Technical Director. Find out about his background and journey at Nortal so far below.

How did you get into software engineering?

“I never got a degree for CIS or anything like that. Back in middle school, I started building computers because I was into gaming. I wanted to become a graphic designer but I quickly realized that I’m not gifted in art. I started by checking out books on BASIC, C, C++, all stuff related to what I wanted to do with game development. I was spending a lot of time in Unreal Engine. It evolved from there as something I found that I really enjoyed. I didn’t have any practical application for it because I was going to college for accounting and I ended up switching my degree to Business Information Systems. My college ended up cutting that degree and I left school to do freelance web development. I later was hired at Clearwire doing SDET and my path to where I am now, began.”

Which technologies are your favorite to work with? Which ones are your least?

“I look at technology as simplifying our lives, so any technology that makes my job easier is what I will gravitate towards. I prefer technologies that solve an issue, like how Kubernetes provides an elegant solution to container orchestration.

From a framework perspective, I gravitate towards Spring and Lombok because the open source community did a wonderful job eliminating redundancy and removing boiler plate code.

For my least favorite, I don’t like technologies that are hard to automate. Some people are okay with that and look at it as job security, but I see it as tedious and a problem we need to solve.”

What made you join Nortal?

“Our Director of Talent Acquisition, Malia Jorgensen. I was in another interview on a lunch break and Malia called to tell me about a role she was interested in hiring me for. Back then, it was Dynacron Group. She sold the company as a group of technologists that wanted to find better solutions and more efficient ways to develop software which really resonated with me.”

How long have you been at Nortal and how has your career grown since starting at Nortal?

“I originally joined in 2013. I did leave for a short stint and then came back. When I joined, I joined as a Software Development Engineer in Test, then I transitioned to doing more software development work. I grew from there to do more project lead work, eventually into a Solutions Architect, and now Technical Director.

I look at every client as an opportunity to grow. Everytime you go into a new project, you are meeting new people and new challenges to overcome. As a consultant, I get a unique opportunity to create solutions at a much faster pace than a full-time employee would. It’s really the variety of clients that has propelled me the farthest.

For example, when I was on the Google PSO, we were on anywhere from 1-3 clients at a time. We were able to see an array of different implementations which was the most beneficial engagement that I was able to be a part of.”

What is your favorite part of being a leader on your team?

“There are two kinds of leaders. One who sits above their team and the other sits beside to help do the work. I’m very much the second, I really enjoy working alongside my team to help drive the solution. I also like to empower others to take ownership of decisions and drive them to completion. What I like most is when I see people around me succeeding and growing, that is by far my favorite part of leadership. Helping my team hit career milestones and goals that they have been aiming for is rewarding.

Which traits do you think are the most important for success in software engineering? What about technology leadership?

I would say drive and hunger. People who are self-motivated, willing to put in the time, and dedicate themselves to solving problems become the most successful. I look for people who are willing to search for the answer. People who are open to finding new solutions will often be able to compare and select the best solution for their client.

For technology leadership, the ability to empower those around you and be collaborative while also providing visibility on emerging technologies and an understanding of where the industry is going.”

What is the most challenging aspect of your job? What is the most rewarding?

“There is a saying that “technology is the easy part”. That holds true at most of our clients. From a technology standpoint we can break down the work and start implementing fairly quickly. It’s the business process and political structure that creates roadblocks. As consultants, we must first begin to understand this process and structure to figure out how best to design and deliver within the environment.

Seeing our clients succeed, working with them to find creative solutions, and watching them drive to reach their goals is very rewarding.”

What are some effective strategies you have adopted while we are all working from home?

“Time management is a huge one. I treat my work life balance like a JIRA board. I time box my working hours to make sure I take breaks and separate myself from work. I try to achieve an overall balance between being at work vs carving out space for feeling like I am not at work. It’s been a long process of finding which strategies work best for me since I’m going on five years of working from home.”

If you’re interested in working at Nortal, visit our careers page. To learn more about Justin and his background, visit his LinkedIn profile.

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